Or Hatzadik 

ב׳׳ה


 
Or Hatzadik means “The Light of the Righteous” and . . . it feels like an appropriate day to share a song that I’ve appreciated for a number of years — Or Hatzadik by Yosef Karduner.   

Praying righteous people of every race, nation, and religion shine Light that will help us all find our way to lasting peace and prosperity that can be shared by all people, jen 
 

And, after we dance with tambourines???

ב׳׳ה

 

 
Jewish Tradition commands us each year to celebrate Passover as people who were actually freed from Egypt. It prompts us to look at the world around us and ask such questions as: 

What is my Mitzrayim?
 
To what am I enslaved?
 
What things, people, activities, habits, thoughts, emotions or biases prevent me from accessing my holiest self and offering Gd’s compassion and mercy to myself and to others?

 

And I’ve been thinking . . . if we are to see ourselves as people who actually fled Egypt and crossed the Sea to dance with Miriam and the other women as they played tambourines . . . ought we not take the rest of that Journey from slavery to freedom with the Israelites?  

Why not “walk” the 49 days to stand at that holy mountain, to feel the earth rumble, to see the lightening flash, to hear the Aleph spoken from within the silence, and to experience the awe and wonder of Torah’s revelation??

Of course, we can’t actually put ourselves in the desert thousands of years ago to spend 49 days wandering with the ancient Israelites and learning to have faith in the Holy One.  So, how can we get to that mountain?

Jewish Tradition teaches that we have to prepare ourselves spiritually. We need to spend some time after Passover trying to move ourselves away from the things that enslave us and toward the Holy One of Unity.

Maybe that spiritual preparation happens with a therapist. Maybe it happens in daily meditation or the chanting of prayers. Maybe yoga or exercise is our time to find clarity and reconnect. Maybe we count the Omer each night and engage in a 49-step journey of personal refinement through the emotional attributes of the Sefirot. Maybe we study Moses Cordovero’s ethical treatise on living as a likeness of our Creator, Tomer Devorah (available free from a link here).

The specifics of the process can be particular to each individual, but some process needs to happen if we want to encounter Gd’s presence at Sinai on Shavuot. … Just as Gd didn’t part the Sea until Nachshon, who couldn’t swim and was afraid of the water, was nearly submerged, we can’t expect Gd to give us the gift of revelation if we don’t prepare ourselves by making the journey…

praying our paths reveal blessings and our journeys lead us Home, jen
 
 
 

Hanukkah, The Force, & 2017

ב׳׳ה

“I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me. I am one with the Force. The Force is with me.”

meditative chant of Chirrut Imwe, Guardian of the Jedi Temple in Jedha City, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story

This week, my 12-year-old son told me he had realized the story of the Maccabees is like the story of the rebels in Star Wars, and that realization led him to start thinking that the true miracle of Hanukkah was that a small group of rebels could defeat a mighty Empire.

I told my son he was correct that the Maccabees’ victory was the real miracle of Hanukkah, and I explained that this connection he had begun to understand between the Maccabees and the Star Wars rebels was why I had always encouraged his love of Star Wars… to help me raise him to be a Jew!!

Faith in The Power greater than ourselves that flows through the universe –regardless whether we call it The Force, or Gd, or The Unity, or any of the thousand other inadequate names– can give us the strength and courage to struggle to create a better future… to fight for what is most just, not only for ourselves but for everyone.  And THIS is why I wanted to raise my son as a Jew and as a fan of the Rebels in Star Wars… so that in his life, when he sees people acting as bullies or sees a situation that is unjust, he will have the faith, strength, and courage of conviction to stand up for himself and others.

We enter this year of 2017 on the same evening that we light eight candles for Hanukkah — may we carry the Light and Holiness of our fully lit menorahs with us into the new year. And, whatever the future brings, may we find strength, peace, and courage in knowing we are One with a Force much greater than ourselves!

with blessings, jen

Live with Joy NOW

ב׳׳ה

We’ve been celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish fall harvest festival.  It is a time when we build a sukkah, or temporary shelter, in which we dwell for seven days.  The sukkah reminds us both of the ancient Israelites who wandered the desert and of the Jewish farmers in Canaan who dwelled in temporary shelters near their fields during the fall harvest.  

But, as Rabbi Alan Lew explains, the sukkah has another purpose — to remind us of “the illusory nature of all houses” and the fact that “Nothing can save us from death.”   This is Real and You are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation at 270 (Little, Brown 2003).   

And what is it we Jews are to do as we dwell in this reminder of our mortality?   Invite our family, friends, and neighbors to join us, and celebrate with a joy greater than at any other holiday.   

Because there’s nothing like death to remind us to live today — NOW, at this very moment — with JOY — and SHARE that joy with others!!

shavua tov, a good week, to all, jen

My New Year Plan

ב׳׳ה

The Plan 
To love with a love too great to fathom, to laugh with a joy heretofore unimagined, to dance through the fire and rise from the ashes, greater than any phoenix mythology fashioned… this is my journey, my quest, my crusade, to embody the grandeur of the plan my Gd made.  

May this New Year be — for all of us — good, sweet, and filed with peace, love, and blessings!
jen

The Path to Freedom

ב׳׳ה

  

My younger son is amused by emojis and he likes to get a note in his lunchbox, so after I pack his lunch, I quickly doodle a note that includes emojis. When I finished today’s doodle, I realized it illustrated some of the Passover lessons that I’ve been thinking about lately, so I thought I’d share it with all of you and tell you what I’ve been thinking about…

The Path to Freedom isn’t always the “easy” path. In fact, sometimes it’s a terrifying journey fraught with danger and difficult steps!!

However, if we want to live as people free of the ideologies, assumptions, habits, and thought patterns that enslave us . . .
then, despite our fear, we must keep walking forward — looking neither down at the muck around our feet nor over at the walls on each side that may collapse in on us, but rather out ahead in the distance, at the Freedom that awaits those willing to place unwavering faith in the One whose power can create us anew each day . . .

This year, may we all become free from more of the things that enslave us!

Happy Passover,
and Shabbat Shalom,
jen

Elul arrives again

ב׳׳ה

The circling months have brought us back to Elul, the time to prepare for the Days of Awe that fall in the first ten days of next month, between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

To “prepare” is to ask ourselves difficult questions about the past year; to acknowledge our mistakes, faults, and shortcomings; and to come to terms with the ways in which we may have –intentionally or unintentionally– hurt others due to our own ignorance, callousness, thoughtlessness, arrogance, jealousy, selfishness, greed, etc.

Once we have completed our internal assessment, then we must “make right” the things that “went wrong” — we must ask forgiveness of, and make amends to, those we wronged; we must say the things we didn’t say that needed to be said; and we must do acts of tikkun (repair) to create goodness in the world.

Only after we have made things right in “this world” (i.e., with those around us) may we atone “in the spiritual world” on Yom Kippur.

And what, one might ask, is the point of all this preparation, repair, and atonement?

The Hassidic Masters analogized our souls to panes of clear glass that we make “dirtier” with every mistake. Dirt gets added each time we misrepresent the truth to ourselves or to someone else; withhold compassion; feel hatred; gossip; belittle ourselves or another; borrow and forget to return; lack gratitude for what we have; pass judgment against others without knowing all the facts; ignore the still small voice as it coaxes us to spread goodness, light, and love throughout this world; etc.

The dirtier the glass becomes, the harder it is for our souls to help us live each moment from our Truth (which is that we exist to share G-d’s Infinite Love with others) — kind of like the way it gets harder to drive a vehicle with a dirty windshield. Over time, lots of little mistakes make it harder to see thru the glass, making it harder for our souls to prevent us from making the bigger mistakes that can happen when we fail to act from Love.

And not only does dirty glass make it harder to see clearly, but we spend time and energy dealing with our emotions about the dirt — managing our guilt and frustration about our past mistakes, or trying to cover them up —  which can distract us from focusing on how we could best go about repairing and sharing G-d’s Love today.

Finally, trying to atone in the spiritual realm on Yom Kippur without first understanding the mistakes we’ve made or without making repairs in this material realm is like trying to clean a dirty windshield without washer solution — the dirt gets smeared around, but it can’t be removed!!

So, our internal assessment helps us determine where repairs are necessary in this world, and the repairs in this world spray on cleaning solution, so that on Yom Kippur we can clear away all the dirt from, and every last smudge and smear on, the pane of glass that is our soul.

This Elul, may G-d help all Jews have a better understanding of the mistakes for which they need to atone and the strength to make the repairs necessary, so that we all might enter the New Year better able to share G-d’s Love with others . . . because that, my friends, is what it means “to choose life that you may live” and “to have a sweet New Year.”

with Love,
jen